The Skunk Manoeuvre

Today was another stellar Monday (can you smell the sarcasm out there in internet land?). This morning wasn’t too bad. The kids managed to get ready for school with minimal direction. I woke up with a headache, but felt better after a couple more hours of sleep. I got my hair done this afternoon, which always helps my mood, and had a short visit with a good friend. So, all and all, not a bad Monday.

That was, until after school. I didn’t get home from the hair stylist’s until around 3:45 pm. Normally the kids don’t get home until 4 pm so I had a few minutes, or so I thought, to sort out what was going to happen this evening. I had just hung up my coat when the door opened. In walked a sobbing Rian followed by my obviously frustrated mother. This could only mean one thing – Rian had a melt down at school and refused to take the bus home. I must confess I felt like rolling my eyes and saying, “What now?”

Instead, I heaved a sigh and took Rian to my bedroom. I prefer to discuss issues in my room. I think it offers more privacy and fewer distractions for the kids and if I feel like screaming there are a plethora of pillows close at hand in which to bury my face and scream at the top of my lungs. I sat on the bed and asked her what had happened at school to cause her to be so upset. Rian explained that she had become upset with Madame (Rian goes to a French Immersion school therefore most of the staff are referred to as “Madame”) and lost her temper. She handed me a zip-loc baggie containing several pieces of what would have been her glasses had they been in one piece. I can honestly say I don’t think I held it together as well as I could have (I do not have coverage for eye glasses and was holding in my hands the pieces of what was about a $300 investment). I raised my voice and sent her straight to her room.

I called the Intensive Social Worker who advised me to call the school. She also said she could squeeze in a quick visit between appointments, but she wouldn’t be able to stay long. I thanked her, hung up and dialed the school. I spoke to the Vice-Principal first who explained that when she first encountered Rian in the office this afternoon my daughter was already in tears and her glasses were in pieces on the floor. The VP took Rian to her office and asked her to explain what had brought her to this emotional state. Apparently the only thing Rian was able to verbalize at the time was that “Madame’s lesson was stupid.” Yup folks, broken glasses, sobbing child because “Madame’s lesson was stupid”. Maybe I get so many headaches because of the number of times I’ve visualized myself banging my head against a brick wall.

I was able to speak to Madame who explained that Rian had been having a great day right up until it was time to do individual work on her French. French work should really not be that unexpected in a French Immersion school, but Rian fights it tooth and nail (please note – Rian chose to go to French Immersion, this was not my idea). Madame put it very diplomatically when she said “Rian didn’t respond well to instruction” in the later part of the day and was being “destructive”. According to Madame, Rian ruined her French paper by pressing the pen so hard it tore through the paper. When Madame took the paper away Rian started destroying things in her desk and threatened to break her glasses. Madame told her that was unacceptable (a term Rian detests) and sent her to the office. In my opinion, very well played by Madame.

It’s important to note that Rian has taken Anger Management classes at OECYC in the past and works with the counselors on building coping tools and useful calming strategies. She has a squishy ball she calls Mr. Squishy-fish. She has a fiddle ring. She knows breathing techniques. She knows how to count to 10 in 3 languages. She has coping strategies and she is encouraged to use them in the classroom. It would seem my beautiful daughter chose not to use any of these very healthy, and very useful, coping tools today.

When I got off the phone with Madame Rian was still in her room. She was laying on her bed with her back to the door playing on her Nintendo DS. Uh, yeah, no. I told her to put the DS down because she did not have screen privileges. Rian stomped out of her room, heading for the storage room (or “Alexi’s Man Cave since the Wii is in there), proclaiming that she would not speak to the Intensive Social Worker when she arrived. I promptly told her to turn around and head straight back to her room because she wouldn’t be leaving it if she wouldn’t cooperate with the counselor. Rian glared at me but agreed. When the worker did arrive it was a battle of wills to see who was in control of the session. My money was on the counselor (rightly so, by the way). I’ve never known anyone with more staying power against a pouting child.

After much discussion it was decided that Rian was pulling “The Skunk Manoeuvre”. This is a term I coined last week to describe the strategies she uses to get others to back away and leave her alone. “The Skunk Manoeuvre” can include any or all of the following: yelling, huffing, arm crossing, hiding behind her hair, punching or other acts of aggression/violence, extreme and untimely silliness, ignoring or “zoning out”, making lame excuses, threatening harm to herself, or saying any of the following, “I don’t know”, “I don’t remember”, “It’s not my fault.”, “I get it from my dad”.

I call it “The Skunk Manoeuvre” because like a skunk when it releases it’s anal scent gland, Rian is attempting to get people to get out of her space and leave her alone in her own little world. The skunk releases the odor as a defense against potential danger. Rian perceives anyone who is trying to infiltrate her world, where she reigns supreme and can do whatever she wants whenever she wants, as a threat. Therefore her the negative coping tools she uses are meant to act as a defense just like the skunk’s smell so I felt the title was appropriate.

The counselor encouraged Rian to use the positive coping strategies she has been practicing in her counseling sessions. She also set homework for Rian. Rian was to write a list of how to implement appropriate coping tools in her day at school (already done). The counselor advised me to give Rian appropriate consequences (apparently grounding her until doomsday is not considered appropriate but grounding her for the week is) including having Rian go to the optometrist and explain what happened to her glasses. Rian was quite upset at the thought of having to face the people at the optometrist’s office so with any luck that will dissuade any future destruction of her spectacles . I’ve also revoked the offer for her to have her hair highlighted which is the monetary consequence of having to pay to have the glasses fixed or replaced.

Hopefully we’ll see more of the positive coping strategies instead of The Skunk Manoeuvres over the next few weeks. Of course, just because I’ve named Rian’s negative coping strategies doesn’t mean she’ll stop using them. As a matter of fact, I’m guessing as the teens years progress she’ll come up with new and improved skunk manoeuvres to enable her to get the response she wants from those around her. I guess this means the Madhouse is also the stinky house. But it’s like I always say, “What do you do when you live in shoe? You buy some Odor Eaters and make the best of it.” And I think we’re going to need a lot of Odor Eaters over the next 5 or 6 years. I wonder if you can buy them in bulk?


About Holly

I hope you're able to glean something from this blog, a nugget of wisdom, a new perspective, a smile or even a laugh. I enjoy getting feedback so please comment, share your story with me too. After all, we're here to help each other.
This entry was posted in ADHD, anger management, anxiety, children's mental health, coping strategies, depression, GAD, OCD, parenting. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Skunk Manoeuvre

  1. I have a mini version of Rian at home, although he’s a 6yo boy. When his ADHD/ODD/anxiety kicks in, I get a call from the school to go pick him up. Yesterday he punched the boy sitting next to him because Madame (he goes to a French school as well…hhhhmmmmm) wouldn’t let him colour. Go figure. I sympathize.

  2. Holly says:

    Hi Laura, thanks for your comment. I feel your pain. A few years back Rian was suspended for kicking a boy in the groin. It’s all fun and games when your kids have a MHI. On the upside, I’m confident she’ll be able to defend herself should trouble arise. Sounds like your little guy will be able to handle himself too. 😉

  3. Tough stuff, Holly, but I love the Odor Eaters analogy, LOL! Can’t lose our sense of humor-EVER. Have a great weekend….it’s Thanksgiving here in the states! 🙂

  4. Holly says:

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!! Keep smiling & eat lots of turkey.

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